Fortification Friday: More magazines… coffer-work, gabions, and splinter proofs

Last week, we took a look at the form and function of powder magazines in field fortifications.  Magazines protected ammunition – both from enemy action and natural agents (moisture being the most dangerous in that regard).  We also saw that, in field fortifications, would be constructed of fascines, coffer-work, or gabions.  Having looked at the first of those construction types, let us turn to the coffer-work.  Briefly, the coffer-work was a magazine lined with boards, planks, or what have you, instead of facines.  But the details of construction differed, of course:

A coffer-work is formed by making frames of six-inch scantling; each frame is composed of two uprights, termed stanchions, and a cap and ground-sill, will nailed together; it is six feet wide, and six feet high in the clear.  These frames are placed upright, and parallel to each other, about two-and-a-half feet apart; they are covered on the top and sides by one-and-a-half-inch plank, which is termed a sheeting. The magazine otherwise is constructed as in the last case.

We have two elevations illustrating the coffer-work.  First a longitudinal view:


And a cross-section:


As with the fascine magazine, we see the basic dimensions set with a six foot wide floor and a six foot height.  We might relate the coffer-work to the internal finishing of a room. We see a framing (stanchions) with studs 2 ½ feet apart.  A floor and walls made of planking laid over that. Note the planking… I mean sheeting… also nailed in place for the ceiling.  A roof consists of two layers of fascines along with the appropriate amount of earth atop that.

Two fine points on the layout.  First is the sill.  This was dug out prior to laying the stanchions.  The longitudinal view bisects the magazine.  So giving the visual impression the floor floats in thin air… not so, just correlate in your head to the cross-section.  Also note the sill slopes to the entrance, as specified. Also note that instead of slanting outward and upward, the coffer-work’s walls are straight.  6x6s are sufficient to hold back earth against more than the natural slope.

Bottom line, the materials used for the walls and the slope of those walls was the main difference between fascine and coffer-work magazines.  Likewise, when using gabions, the chief difference is again how the walls are built, but the materials demanded a different approach to the construction work:

When gabions are used, a hole is usually dug in the ground to form a part of the magazine; the gabions are placed in two rows, side by side, around the hole, and are filled with earth. The top is formed as in the case of fascines.

Turning to the next figure:


Yes… it is crooked in the original and fixing it detracts from the detail.   And.. we are missing some detail as it is!

Gabions are great if one is reinforcing walls, as we discussed in regard to revetments. But there are limits to gabion load bearing.  Instead of a wall completely constructed with gabions, the trick is to cheat a bit – dig a three foot (or so) trench so the gabions need only be three foot tall.  Double stacking gabions or six foot tall gabions would be a weaker structure.  Missing details in the figure include the floor, any revetment of the lower half of the walls, and the earth laid against the exterior of the gabions.  Based on “in the case of fascines” there should be a sill, a floor of planks, and perhaps fascines over the lower half of the walls.

The gabion magazine looks attractive.  I can easily relate experiences where similar shelters are built using the modern equivalent to gabions.  But Mahan seemed to prefer fascines and coffer-works over gabions for magazine construction.  Clearly the choice between the types would be weighed against resources and practicality.

So three types of magazines to consider.  But we have a natural weak point to address – the mouth, or doorway.  Must have a mouth open to allow passage.  And that passage will let in messy things like enemy shells.  How to fix that?  Splinter-proofs!

The mouth of the magazine is covered by a splinter proof shelter.  This is constructed by taking scantling eight by ten inches, cut into suitable lengths, and placing it in an inclined position, so as to cover the mouth, and leave an easy access to it. The pieces, usually, are inclined 45º, and are placed side by side; they are covered by at least two feet of earth, or sods; and hides or tarpaulins are thrown over the whole.

Splinter proofs looked as such:


As described, 8x10s lain against the magazine’s exterior wall.  Two feet of earth on top of that.  And a tarp anchored at the top and lain over the whole.  Notice also the fascines as a revetment of the exterior wall of the magazine (on the right) and the elevated flooring (bottom).  Keep in mind the amount of foot traffic expected through the splinter proof.  The layout had to protect but allow passage.  Passage, that is, of men carrying heavy artillery projectiles and such.  So select the good timbers for the floor.

But, as the name implied, splinter proofs offered less protection than bomb proofs. Yet, lesser protection was deemed sufficient for some uses within the fort:

 Splinter proof blinds are mainly intended to afford a shelter against the fragments of hollow projectiles that explode in the work.  They may be used as a kind of barrack for the troops; and to store provisions, &c.

For example, splinter proofs appeared all across Morris Island during the summer of 1863. Those were used as staging shelters for infantry, sappers, and engineers working on the siege lines.

So we have the specifications for the magazines to include protection of the entrances.  But not so fast.  Writing post war, Junius Wheeler had some refinements, to include references to wartime practices.  We need to examine those instructions if we wish to understand the practice, as applied to magazines, used during the Civil War.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 59.)

Assessing Generalship… and doing it properly!

Couple weeks back I posted a couple of examples and asked “are these guys incompetent?”  That was somewhat a leading question, given Generals Burnside and Slocum, based on how the men are usually received… maybe rated is a better word… by historians and the general lot of us Civil War aficionados.  The knot I was picking at was assessing generalship… historically speaking.

The problem, as I see it, is such ratings and assessments are often given from the ex post facto and from the safety of the armchair or writing desk.  And that is not a dig at those of us 150 years removed.  Rather saying we should… read, must… use the greater access to details and perspectives which our position relative to the place and time affords.  In other words, we should approach such assessments with a degree of formality.  Simply saying, “he was a bad general” is not enough.  We should be able to quantify!

Quantify, well that means we need standards, definitions.  So exactly is generalship?

A simple dictionary definition will reference something to the effect, “exercising military skills in command of a military unit.”  Somewhat generic for our need.  We probably should say one need be a general, in rank, or at least holding a general’s post in responsibility.  A battery commander, who is a captain, would not be demonstrating generalship in command of his four, or six, guns.  Likewise, a general managing a battery is not really demonstrating generalship (though arguably… demonstrating a lack of generalship!).

And what of these “military skills”?  Many will point immediately to tactics and strategy.  But that is somewhat an overshot.  We can certainly say tactics and strategy are part of the mix.  But those are really a subset of skills grouped into larger skill-sets (to use a redundant buzzword).  Instead, I’d offer a definition along these lines:

Generalship: The military skill of exercising command, control, and management of a military unit which is designated as befitting a general’s rank (i.e. brigade, division, or higher command).

I think it is important to focus on those three skill-sets – command, control, and management.

A good place to start is with Army Field Manual 6-0 (FM 6-0), titled “Mission Command.” There we find Command defined:

Command is the authority that a commander in the armed forces lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources and for planning the employment of, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions. It also includes responsibility for health, welfare, morale, and discipline of assigned personnel.

We see command tied to a position in the organizational chart.  Generals have the power to command by virtue of position, and not by rank alone.  There are plenty of non-commanding generals (now days and during the Civil War). Think about the Hunt-Sickles interaction at Gettysburg, for an example where this comes into play.

There are three elements of command:

  • Authority – “the delegated power to judge, act, or commandIt includes responsibility, accountability, and delegation.”  In other words, a commander is responsible and accountable for all, but can (should) delegate execution.
  • Decisionmaking – “selecting a course of action as the most favorable to accomplish the mission.”  Ah!  The mission … as in what the unit must accomplish.  “Decisionmaking includes knowing if to decide, then when and what to decide, and understanding the consequences of decisions.”  And the manual reminds us, this is “both art and science.”
  • Leadership – “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission….”  Notably, “the leadership of commanders ultimately includes the force of will.”

How about control?

… control is the regulation of forces and battlefield operating systems to accomplish the mission in accordance with the commander’s intent. It includes collecting, processing, displaying, storing, and disseminating relevant information for creating the common operational picture, and using information, primarily by the staff, during the operations process. Control allows commanders to disseminate their commander’s intent, execute decisions, and adjust their operations to reflect changing reality and enemy actions. It allows commanders to modify their commander’s visualization to account for changing circumstances. Control also allows commanders to identify times and points requiring new decisions during preparation and execution.

This also contains three main elements:

  • Information – “…in the general sense, is the meaning humans assign to data.” The modern spin on this is the commander will develop, through his staff, a common operating picture, shared with subordinates.  Applying “analysis and judgment” the commander reaches a situational understanding.  And that… well it becomes the foundation for decisionmaking.  There’s a lot more to the modern interpretation here… but let’s keep things simple for the moment.
  • Communication – “… means to use any means or method to convey information of any kind from one person to another.”  Communication is the commander’s voice.  Just that simple.
  • Structure – “… is a defined organization that establishes relationships among its elements or a procedure that establishes relationships among its activities.”  So not just who reports to whom. Consider here that repeatable practices, such as handling resupply or placement of guards at intersections, are structure.  These allow the commander’s intent to be exercised in absence of direct communication.  Structured behavior.

Finally, management… I include it in my definition, but you’ll find the modern military is short to describe that element.  There is a tendency to pit leadership against management, with leadership being the preferred quality.  One does not “manage” a firefight, but rather leads the command through it! Armies are led, don’t you know!   And management is something better conducted in the motor pool or supply room.

But let’s not relegate management to the logistical endeavors. Notice in the discussions above about command and control, we saw not a feather paid to tactics, operations, and strategy.  That’s because those are aspects of management.  To put it plainly, management in the military sense is the movement, placement, orientation, and maintenance the military unit.  And not just maintenance in the sense of greasing axles and cleaning muskets.  Rather, going to the broader sense to encompass all needed to maintain the unit’s presence in the operation and purchase on the situation toward accomplishment of the mission.

A lot of deep thinking here.  But let’s circle this back to the point of departure.  If we decide, in this historical sense, a general was not a good general – that is we find his generalship lacking – then I believe the burden of proof is on us. We have to lay out an assessment of that general’s behavior.  It should address how the general exercised command, control, and management.  And it should honestly demonstrate successes and failures, where ever they may be.

It is simply not enough to say the general left a flank open.  That may be a tactical sin, but is not necessarily an overwhelming condemnation of generalship.  It’s what brought the general to the decision about the flank… or his failure to communicate a better disposition… or his failure to exert his leadership… that we need to examine in order to derive a conclusion.  To do otherwise is certainly committing a sin … that of bad history!


The Artilleryman Magazine – Fall 2016 Issue

The fall issue of The Artilleryman Magazine arrived last Friday.  If you are not a subscriber already, I highly recommend this periodical.  Especially in the new, reworked format.

Articles in this issue include:

  • Schenkl Combination Fuse, by John D. Bartleson,Jr., CW04 (Ret.), USN – Detailed technical examination, backed up with lavish illustrations, on this type of fuse.  Added much to my understanding of Schenkl fuses.
  • Sherman’s Blunder Led to McPherson’s Death, by Stephen Davis, Ph.D. –  General James McPherson’s death occurred at a critical juncture of the Atlanta Campaign (I would argue a more critical point than John Reynold’s death).  This article explores the tactical details… and interprets the wartime site photos.
  • Lady Artillerists, by Gary Brown –  A look at some of the legends and lore behind female artilerists, drawing from American and European history… and pointing to the branch’s future as the military opens combat roles to female soldiers.
  • 25th Loomis’ Battery Long Range Artillery Match, by Don Lutz and Ericka Hoffman – Report from the July 30-31 authentic artillery competition.  Participants fired 584 rounds, in this 25th year of the match.  It is held on the Grayling Michigan National Guard Range Complex.
  • U.S. 30-Pounder Parrott Sight, by Thomas Bailey – Photos and essay discussing the arrangement and use of this type of sight, which we often see in wartime photos.
  • All Did Their Duty: Artillery at the Battle of Trenton, by Joshua Shepherd. “Trenton constituted the first great triumph for America’s field artillery….” Need we say more?
  • Is your Cannonball Explosive?, by John Biemeck, Colonel (Ret.) – An authoritative approach to handling Civil War era ordnance.  Very important read… and many lessons to take to heart.  Though I fear some will just read “it is OK to handle the projectiles” without fully reading the recommended practices.
  • Pair of French Naval Guns Captured by the British, by John Morris – Examination of two French short 6-pdrs (Model of 1786), from Fort Ticonderoga.

Also included is a news update from the US Army Artillery Museum.  The Artillery Bookshelf has a review of American Breechloading Mobile Artillery, 1875-1953.  And letters to the editor include a submission from myself, discussing a claim based on an Ordnance Return (I may provide more details down the road in a blog post).

I mentioned new format in the opening above.  That is about to become “newer” and extending to 64 pages in the Spring 2017 issue.  Jack Melton, who took over the magazine in 2015, has certainly taken the periodical to a higher level.  Illustrations jump off the page!  And as you see from the list of articles above, the content extends beyond just the gun tubes… touching upon other aspects of military history, though always relating back to the artillery of course.  Great work!

Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – New York Independent Batteries (Part 1)

All told, thirty-six formations from New York received the designation “Independent Battery, Light Artillery” during the war.  Some of these were simply re-designation of existing batteries, to better align record keeping with practice (such as Battery L, 2nd New York Heavy discussed last week, which became the 34th Independent Battery).  Others were completely new batteries formed outside the regimental system.  Of those, some were short lived or never completely formed.  Still, these independent batteries were a rather substantial number of lines to account for in the quarterly summaries.  For the first quarter, 1863, there were thirty-two enumerated:


Let us look at these in batches, for better focus:


Starting with the first dozen:

  • 1st Independent Battery: At Belle Plain, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Andrew Cowan commanded the battery assigned to Second Division, Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • 2nd Independent Battery:  No return. At the start of the winter, Captain Louis Schirmer commanded this battery, assigned First Division, Eleventh Corps.  When Schirmer was promoted to command the corps’ artillery reserve later in the spring, Captain Hermann Jahn took command of the battery.
  • 3rd Independent Battery: At Potomac Creek, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts (an increase from the last quarter). The battery served in Second Division, Sixth Corps, under Lieutenant William A. Harn.
  • 4th Independent Battery: No return.  Assigned to Second Division, Third Corps. We are familiar with the 4th, thanks to their stand at the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, and know they had six 10-pdr Parrotts.  Through the winter, the battery saw several officers depart for other commands and Lieutenant George F. Barstow, 3rd US Artillery, took command late in the winter.  “The men were despondent,” Captain James E. Smith later recounted, “and became lax in their duties, not without some excuse.”  For this, and other reasons, Smith returned to command his old battery in May.
  • 5th Independent Battery: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 20-pdr Parrotts.   This was Captain Elijah D. Taft’s battery in the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve.
  • 6th Independent Battery: No location listed, but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. At the start of the winter, the 6th was under Captain W. M. Bramhall and part of the Artillery Reserve.  By spring, Lieutenant Joseph W. Martin assumed command with the battery transferred to the Horse Artillery (First Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac).
  • 7th Independent Battery: At Norfolk, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Peter C. Regan’s battery supported the Seventh Corps.
  • 8th Independent Battery: At Yorktown, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Part of the Fourth Corps, on the Peninsula, Captain Butler Fitch commanded this battery.
  • 9th Independent Battery: Fort Reno, District of Colulmbia, with only infantry stores.  Captain Emil Schubert, of the 4th US Artillery, was commander of this battery, assigned to the Twenty-Second Corps.  As indicated, the battery was not equipped as light artillery.
  • 10th Independent Battery: At Falmouth with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Lieutenant Samuel Lewis replaced Captain John T. Bruen during the winter.  The battery remained with Third Division, Third Corps until later in the spring.
  • 11th Independent Battery: Also at Falmouth but with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Battery also assigned to Third Division, Third Corps. Lieutenant John E. Burton replaced Captain Albert Von Puttkammer in command.
  • 12th Independent Battery: At Camp Barry, Artillery Camp of Instruction, District of Columbia and reporting four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain George F. McKnight replaced Captain William H. Ellis.

A few changes in command and only one significant transfer through the winter.  And not many changes in the number and type of cannon.  Notice all these batteries served in the Eastern Theater.  More specifically, in Virginia and the defenses of Washington.

Only one battery reported smoothbores on hand:


But we have two lines?

  • 5th Battery:  56 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • 10th Battery:  288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

Why would Taft’s Battery have canister for 6-pdr smoothbores?  Perhaps for use in their 20-pdr Parrotts.  The bore size was the same.  Notably, the battery didn’t report these in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, 10th Battery seemed short of ammunition for it’s Napoleons. No change from the previous quarter’s report.  Such leads me to believe someone made “quick work” of their duties.

Hotchkiss projectiles were favored for the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles in the Army of the Potomac, and accordingly, we see a lot of those reported on hand:


Six batteries with entries:

  • 1st Battery: 129 canister, 211 percussion shell, 370 fuse shell, and 570 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 6th Battery: 59 canister, 285 percussion shell, 44 fuse shell, and 323 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 7th Battery: 114 canister, 47 percussion shell, 259 fuse shell, and 715 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 8th Battery: 175 canister and 45 percussion shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 11th Battery: 151 canister, 258 fuse shell, and 775 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 12th Battery: 137 canister, 73 percussion shell, 40 fuse shell, and 120 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

Not to fret about the 8th Battery, as they were not short on ammunition.  Turning to the next page:


We see the 8th had Dyer’s patent projectiles:

  • 8th Battery:  369 shell and 650 shrapnel for 3-inch rifles.

And there are two Parrott batteries (not counting Smith’s which didn’t submit a report):

  • 3rd Battery: 480 shell , 480 case, and 190 canister of Parrott for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • 5th Battery: 45 Parrott Shell for 20-pdr Parrotts.

And the last page of rifled projectiles has a couple more entry lines for Schenkl:


  • 1st Battery: 29 Schenkl shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • 3rd Battery: 120 Schenkl shell for 10-pdr Parrotts.

Lastly, we turn to the small arms reported on hand:


Seems like everyone had something:

  • 1st Battery: Twenty-eight Navy revolvers, eight cavalry sabers, and fifteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 3rd Battery: Four Army revolvers and twelve cavalry sabers.
  • 5th Battery: Twenty-three Army revolvers and twenty-one horse artillery sabers.
  • 6th Battery: 155 Navy revolvers, twenty cavalry sabers, and two horse artillery sabers.
  • 7th Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and twenty-six cavalry sabers.
  • 8th Battery: Fourteen Navy revolvers and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • 10th Battery: Fifty-eight Navy revolvers and eleven horse artillery sabers.
  • 11th Battery: Twenty Army revolvers and twenty-two cavalry sabers.
  • 12th Battery: Twenty-eight Army revolvers and twenty-nine horse artillery sabers.

For the next installment, we’ll look at the second batch of New York’s independent batteries – 13th through 24th.

Fortification Friday: Carefully place and construct Powder Magazines!

So you’ve built your works and improved it with a nice set of batteries.  Great!  Are those walls and obstacles all that is needed to scare away an attacker?  Probably not.  At some point, the defenders will need to do more than sit being the parapet.  They will need to do some shooting.  And shooting requires, among other things, gunpowder and projectiles.  Lots of gunpowder and projectiles.  But those are things one does not just have laying about in the open.  Not to mention the danger of explosions, gunpowder tends to deteriorate if not properly stored and maintained.  Thus the need for powder magazines.

Mahan registered the requirements of such powder magazines in his treatise:

Powder magazines. The main objects to be attended to in a powder magazine are, to place it in the position least exposed to the enemy’s fire; to make it shot proof; and to secure the powder from moisture.

Point of order here.  Mahan singled out powder magazines specifically as places where ammunition was kept. Defenders might build various protective structures for other uses, but the powder magazine’s arrangements were to directly address the needs of storing ammunition. Point to remember later when we look at other types of internal structures.

Also note the use of the word “shotproof” here.  Specifically that requirement is to prevent solid shot from battering the structure.  Bombproof would, of course, involve resisting enemy shells.  But from the text, it is not clear that Mahan made a distinction here… just food for thought.

Don’t know that I’d rank these three requirements, as all are important.  But I’d offer that the professor gave us his preferences in reverse order!  That is if he had such rankings.  Consider the next paragraph:

If there are traverses, such for example, as are used in defilement, the magazines may be made in them; or they may be placed at the foot of a barbette; or, in dry soils, be made partly under ground.

Egad!  A traverse, as we learned, is a structure designed to sit in the way of the enemy’s anticipated line of fire… so as to intercept those fires.  So much for “least exposed”….

But let us focus on the practical aspects of the magazines:

The magazines should be at least six feet high, and about the same width within; its length will depend on the quantity of ammunition. It may be constructed of facines, gabions, or cofferwork, or any means found at hand may be used which will effect the end in view.

I’ve not seen any justification for the six foot dimensions.  Perhaps just the average height of the men servicing the ammunition.  Hey, you need to save that back for throwing back the enemy’s assaulting troops!  And we see mention here of some revetment types in order to strengthen the magazine beyond that of plain soil.  But cofferwork is a new phrase, implying a more complex magazine arrangement.  Let us hold off details of that and focus on the basic work.

If [fascines] are used, the sides should slope outwards to resist the pressure of the earth; the fascines should be firmly secured by pickets and anchoring withes.  The top may be formed by a row of joists, of six-inch scantling, placed about two and-a-half feet apart; these should be covered by two layers of fascines laid side by side, and the whole be covered in by at least three feet thickness of earth.

Figure 34 illustrates these arrangements:


The figure shows a magazine buried at all sides.  So assume the placement is correct and sufficient earth is employed to make the structure shotproof as required.  Thus we focus on the internal arrangements.  As required, the fascines are secured and anchored.  Notice these are slanted (“sloped outward”) as necessary for support.  The floor is six feet wide.  Six feet above that is an eight feet wide ceiling, constructed with six-inch wide beams (scantling).  Those support two layers of fascines, laid in opposite orders.  And atop that, another three feet of earth.   Shotproof!

But let us look at details below the floor:

The bottom should be covered by a flooring of joists and boards; a shallow ditch being left under the flooring, with a pitch towards the door of the magazine, to allow any water that might leak through to be taken out.  A thatch of straw might be used on the inside, but it is somewhat dangerous, owing to its combustibility; hides or tarpaulins are better, and will keep out the moisture more effectually.

Thus, we see all three requirements addressed in this basic magazine. Nice notes here as to drainage.

Mahan was concerned mostly with construction of the magazine.  He did not address directly maintenance needed, which was of just as much importance.  Beyond just keeping earth on the magazine and the internal structure strengthened, the magazine need be tidy and organized.  Not only to reduce risks of accidental explosions, but also so that retrieval of ammunition was quick and easy.

And speaking to accidents, a good engineer would confront such risks.  To some degree the slope of the magazine wall would focus the force of an explosion upwards and out. The sides of the magazine should be thicker, or at least more resistant, than the roof, so as to allow the venting of such force.  But those were just mitigations against the risk.  The first line of defense against such risk was proper handling and maintenance of the ammunition.

With the basics of the magazine established, let us turn next to more elaborate arrangements.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 58-9.)

Tonight on Caption-Busters: That Battery L, 2nd New York photo….

In my opinion, Public Broadcasting or one of the various documentary cable channels would do well with a series that explores old photos (not just Civil War photos, but you know where my preference would be) and matches them up to specific locations, times, and persons.  Certainly there are interesting stories as to how the image got onto glass plate.  Beyond that, there are so many cases where the photo is not what we think it is.  Such is the case of the Battery L, 2nd New York photo from yesterday’s post:


There is no doubt the photo was taken at Fort C.F. Smith, with the nice sign there in the background.  But as I said yesterday, the service record of Battery L does not place it at Fort C.F. Smith… at least not long enough for any reporting period.  So that is a question which needed to be resolved.

When preparing the post, my first take on the gun was that it appeared to be a Napoleon.  Then I looked at the muzzle, which under low resolution appeared to extend straight to the length expected for the Ordnance Rifle.  The color of the tube, in black and white, may be bronze or it may be the natural metal color.  But if we go for the latter, then another question comes into play – why was it not painted?

Two strikes.  But I figured if the Library of Congress retained the caption and the New York State Military Museum agreed, then maybe I shouldn’t ask any more questions.

Reader John Wells further questioned the photo.  And that prompted me to start looking in higher resolution.  And particularly the muzzle:


Maybe it is straight.  Looks more like a muzzle swell to me.  But with whatever is draped over the muzzle in the way, hard to tell.  (Doesn’t that look like a vest laying over the muzzle?)

So a breaking ball on the corner… and the umpire is not in a generous mood.  A foul ball.  Still two strikes.

But, we have a pitcher’s count.  And here’s the put away pitch:


Hat brass – this is not Battery L.  Appears to be Battery K of some regiment other than the second. Looks like a one to me.  But Benjamin Cooling’s Mr. Lincoln’s Forts mentions Battery K, 2nd New York Heavy rotating through the fort during the war (and likewise identified the battery in the photo we are questioning).

So clearly not Battery L. And I’d even have to question the regiment’s identification when noting the badge on the fellow to the right of the snip (above).  Is that a corps badge?  Second Corps? Fifth Corps?  Sixth Corps?

Two others have similar badges, including the fellow on the left leaning on the wheel:


But the badge is on the left breast, not the right.

Though I would point out, there is a mixture of artillery and infantry accouterments (cap pouches and bayonet frogs) among the crew.

Lesson re-learned… never trust Library of Congress captions.  Not that the Library is suspect.  Not at all. Rather the information passed to them, often from the original distributor of the printed image, is sometimes… too many times… suspect.


Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 2nd New York Heavy and 3rd New York Cavalry

Before moving on to the New York Independent Batteries, there are two lines to clean up for the first quarter, 1863.  Sandwiched between the returns for the 1st Regiment and 3rd Regiment is a lone line for Battery L, 2nd New York Heavy.  And at the bottom of the page is an entry for artillery assigned to the 3rd New York Cavalry.  I’ve split the lines here so we can focus without those light regiments in the way:


Transcribing the lines:

  • Battery L, 2nd New York Artillery: At Crab Orchard, Kentucky with four 3-inch rifles.
  • Section “attached to 3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry”:  At New Bern, North Carolina with two 12-pdr field howitzers.

As we don’t have a lot else to discuss, let’s take a closer look at these two.

Battery L was among those missing from the previous quarter and I am at a loss to explain why I didn’t mention such!  So let’s introduce them formally.  The battery was recruited at Flushing, New York by Captain Thomas L. Robinson.  It was known as the Hamilton Artillery and Flushing Artillery at times.  But was formally Artillery Company of the 15th New York Militia.  Before leaving the state, the battery was assigned to the 2nd New York Artillery.  Though a “heavy” regiment, it was not uncommon to have a light battery assigned.  Robinson’s battery might have filled in as Battery L for the 3rd New York, but they were still training at Camp Barry when Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition departed.  When Robinson left the service, Captain Jacob Roemer assumed command.  And around that time, the battery was assigned to the Army of Virginia.  The battery saw action at Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, but remained in the Washington Defenses for the Maryland Campaign.  Battery L returned to the field for Fredericksburg as part of Ninth Corps (Second Division).  When the Ninth Corps transferred west, Battery L was among them, Roemer still in command.

Crab Orchard, Kentucky?  That location appears on September 1863 dispatches related to the battery.  I may be splitting hairs, but the battery’s duty location was listed as Paris, Kentucky in April of that year.

But we have some asterisks to address on the unit designation.  In November 1863, Roemer’s Battery became the 34th New York Independent Battery.  A new Battery L, 2nd New York Heavy was recruited in its place.  Meanwhile the 34th came back east with the Ninth Corps for the Overland Campaign.  Lots of changes, but follow the ball.  We’ll see this same battery on a different line on future summaries.

However, there is the matter of this photo:


“Fort C.F. Smith, Co. L, 2d New York Artillery” the caption says. No disputing the location. And that is a 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.  But which Battery L?  This could be the “original” just before leaving the Washington Defenses in 1862.  Or perhaps during the Antietam Campaign when the battery was also posted to the capital (though returns place the battery on the Maryland side of the Potomac).  Or is this the “new” Battery L later in the war?  Sure would be nice to link that rifle in the photo to one tallied in the summary.  (UPDATE: Or maybe this isn’t even Battery LOr maybe this isn’t even Battery L….)

Turning now to the 3rd New York Cavalry, as mentioned for the forth quarter, 1862 summary, I believe this to be Allee’s Howitzers.  However, that same line indicated mountain howitzers the previous quarter.  We may have a transcription error.  Even worse, to the right of the cannon columns, the clerks indicated the section had two 6-pdr carriages and two 12-pdr howitzer caissons. Go figure.

And I’ll tell you something else strange about that section assigned to the 3rd New York Cavalry:


Apparently they had no ammunition!

So readers don’t feel cheated, that section did report having some stores on hand: two each – sponge buckets, tar buckets, fuse gauges, gimlets, gunner’s haversacks,  pick axes, felling axes, priming wires, shoves, sponge covers, vent covers, padlocks, claw hammers, hand saws, and wrenches.  Also six sets of harness traces, four lanyards, six nose bags, six tarps, four tube punches, four whips, 98 leather bridles, 99 leather harnesses, and one packing box.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, Battery L did have ammunition to fire:


Hotchkiss columns first:

  • Battery L:  83 canister, 32 percussion shell, 336(?) fuse shell, and 324 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

But nothing to see on the next page:


Moving right along to the last page of ammunition:


  • Battery L: 30 Schenkl 3-inch shells.

Throw in some small arms:


Again, just Battery L, as we assume the 3rd Cavalry reported theirs on a separate set of “cavalry” forms:

  • Battery L: 15 Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.

There you have it… A battery and a section.  Four Ordnance Rifles and two howitzers.  805 projectiles for the rifles.  Fifteen pistols and fifteen sabers.  And I stretched that out to make a blog post.